FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL
9, 1999 witnessed a triumph for cold war opponents: the East German
government announced the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Within
hours, chisel-wielding crowds were dismantling the Wall one piece
at a time.
down the Wall signaled not only the end of a city's 28-year separation
but also the crumbling of cold war forces that had been brewing
since 1945, with the post-World War II division of Berlin into four
zones, one each for the United States, The Soviet Union, France
and Great Britain.
June 1948, tensions between the Soviet Union and the other occupying
powers had disintegrated to a blockade -- the Soviets severed the
distribution of basic services and supplies to Berlin. In response,
the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain airlifted
food and other necessities to the city until May 1949.
between the two sides continued to escalate over the following decade.
In November 1958, Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev demanded that
the Western powers vacate their zones of occupation within six months.
The Western nations refused to budge.
fate of the city was sealed when relations between Krushchev and
President John F. Kennedy failed during a June 1961 meeting. Two
months later, the Berlin Walls - a larger, concrete wall that faced
the western half of the city and an additional shadow wall on the
eastern side - were erected. Guard dogs and troops patrolled the
walls, preventing defections.
was not until the 1980s, with the warming of relations between President
Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, that support
for the Wall's existence started to show cracks. Perestroika and
Glasnost, hallmarks of Gorbachev's administration, paved the way
for a change in heart of the East German government, as did Reagan's
exhortation to "tear down this wall."
the destruction of the Wall, it was only a matter of time until
East and West Germany were reunited - a feat that occurred on October